Sunday night's Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at Moda Center—the last of its 28-city run—was a spectacle par excellence. In its way, it was a commentary on all America, not just Westeros—but more about that in a moment.
First, the spectacle. Picture yourself in Moda Center. It's a third full, dark, with three geometrically-shaped stages and huge video screens pumping out high-def CGI graphics. A full, 80-piece orchestra full of second-tier phenoms in medieval garb is slamming away on classical and world music instruments in exclusively minor keys.
The bass response is out of this fucking world, and there are 10 actual fire-spewing flame throwers; at one point, you literally feel the dragon's breath as it melts you.
You're munching cotton candy and pizza, drinking an IPA, trying not to get grease on your phone while you take hot shots and selfies. A highly-compressed, graphic video montage of the first six seasons roils your blood, pulls a tear from your eye.
Behind you sit Valley Girls. "Like, why is this not sold out?" one wonders. "I like these seats—we're in front of the TV," another responds. "Like, I can watch this over and over and over again," says a third. "I love it."
Orifices buzzing with eye and ear candy, stomach churning sugar and fat, enthrall to escapism, you miss what matters. Luckily, WW makes a Top Ten list for you:
- Cello solos steal the show, besting vocal, violin, woodwind and percussion. That alone says something about the concert’s minor keys and turgid emotions. Cameron Stone gets the cool staccato solo for the dragon climax.
- It is pretty fucking cool to hear a hammered dulcimer solo, backed by a full orchestra, under with Jumbotron vids. For like a minute, at any rate—then it becomes weird TV karaoke. “It’s so good,” the Valley Girl says. “Holy moly. So epic.”
- Game of Thrones has touched us like few video creations have. It’s got a powerful cult pull, akin to Star Wars. Hear the cash registers? Next season starts in July! (Full disclosure: the writer has seen every episode. Once. There’s more to life.)
- There is no point counting the number of deceased on video or the musicians’ reprisals of the main melodic leifmotif, or theme. Arguably, the entire two-hour concert is variations on that theme, an amalgam of polished melodic homogeneity.
- Ironically, the show reinforces and accentuates the irrelevance of the very musicians and soloists it purportedly celebrates. Video cuts got the biggest applause of the night, and soloists frequently couldn’t compete with the TV.
- This was the music licensing and soundtrack industry at its best—and worst. “I also would like to point out that we’re working with a local orchestra and choir,” composer-conductor Ramin Djawadi says at the start of the show. “They sound absolutely amazing, thank you.” He never names the locals. Why would he?
- Dragons. ‘Nuff said. Also: people love seven-pointed stars, it seems. Druids are among us. Stop. Put down the tablet, or phone. Look to your left. That’s a druid!
- World and tribal music remains a force of nature, especially when connected to culturally-themed iconography. When woodwinds soloist Pedro Eustache throws down haunting modal improv on top of tablas and images of Arabia, or when hammered dulcimer layers atop Celtic witchcraft, something powerful happens.
- It’s fucked up to watch children graphically murdered on screen—fictionalized or no. The thing is, you know that boy is going to be killed by that arrow, and live music raises the ante. Yeah, it’s entertainment, but it’s sketch.
- People applauding a trailer made to hype the upcoming season is pathetic, artistically. We paid how much to see this, uh, “live”? Whatevs. Pass the licorice rope.
All photos by Thomas Teal.